How I choose who to follow on Twitter

Recently, both Mike Butcher and Amanda Rose have mentioned about how to unfollow people to me, or in particular, were looking at how I’d done it in the past.

Why would you ever want to unfollow people? Well, after being on Twitter for some time you’ll realise that the fun of trying to keep up with 100+ (in some cases, way way more) makes it unusable for other things, like, actually keeping up with those you want to. It is great to have a wide community, but personally I found Twitter couldn’t be a wide community to watch AND a useful tool to keep up with friends. I found the latter more important to me, and so started the strict who I follow policy late last year (2007).

I’ve got it down to a fine art for myself, and so I thought I’d share how I do it. This is definitely not a one size fits all approach, but I thought others may find it useful to see how I manage my cosy 50 person network (give or take). I want to really stress this is what works for me – I am not suggesting that it is what everyone should do, or that it is in any way the “correct” approach – I don’t think there is one with Twitter, everyone’s Twitter service and use is down to the individual.

Firstly, I found that I can never keep up with more than about 80. So that’s the serious I-have-to-stop-following-people point for me. So I unfollowed as many people as I felt I could to get down to 80. Then, I looked really hard at who I was following and why. Anyone I was following that I didn’t know in real life had to have a really good reason to be in there, such as super useful or interesting Tweets. This was to make sure those who I do know and want to see appear more frequently in my feed. There really aren’t a huge amount of people who have super interesting or useful Tweets when you read their feed page as a whole, so that helped the numbers go down.

Lastly, and this is the most important step I’ve found recently in refining my service, I looked at Tweet volume. Even if you’re one of my good friends in real life, if you Tweet much higher than the majority in my stream, I won’t follow you. I’ll just check in on your page from time to time. This is because I’ve found most of my friends have settled into a Tweet style of 5 or less a day (on average) which means I get a fairly equal feed from all, which I like. It means I even get a chance to spot those friends of mine who like me, might only Twitter a few times a week these days. If I added a person who Tweets say, 20-30 times a day, I just get a one wo/man show of what that person is doing, knocking out all the other Tweets.

Interestingly, if everyone in my feed Twittered 20 times a day, then who I followed would no doubt be a different community of Twitterers. My point being the figures are arbitrary. I would say my patterns have fallen in line with my direct community. Therefore, I think it’s not the actual number of Tweets you put out there, it’s how many you put out there in relation to who you want to be hearing you.

eg, if all your network are at it 20 times a day, then I’d suggest you’re going to have to get to that amount yourself, to ensure you’re heard amongst the other noise! Worth thinking about, especially if you use Twitter for personal PR and communication. If it’s important for you to be heard, think about how the hearing will happen at the other end. And remember, it’s important to Twitter at the amount that’s suitable for your intended audience.

So this style seems to work well for me, I have a nice balance of work and personal friends in my Twitter stream, and everyone else I just check in our their pages direct. I also check my @Thayer‘s everytime I Tweet, so that I know when those I don’t follow in my feed are chatting to me so I can chat back. It works well.

If you’ve got any views on how you work out your follow feed, I’d be very interested to hear. I know it ranges from super strict like me all the way through to if you follow me I’ll follow you back.

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About Thayer Prime

Tall. Eats a lot. Talks too much. I tweet over @thayer
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3 Responses to How I choose who to follow on Twitter

  1. Anonymous says:

    to follow, or not to follow
    You are definitely the right person to be leading this discussion. Just like etiquette, there are no ‘rules’ about what is right and what is wrong when deciding who you should follow. Every person should just do what works for them. I will be writing an extended series of blogs over the next couple of weeks based on my research on Twitter and one of the first will be dedicated solely to this topic.
    For me, I enjoy following an extended group of people on Twitter for two reasons: 1) I have the ability to send them a DM, which keeps the conversation going, but cuts noise and 2) I like to dip in and out of conversations happening in real-time as it helps me feel more connected to things I might otherwise miss. But, recently I have started reviewing my list and streamlining it a bit – but you are much more disciplined than I am. I really hope others add to the conversation… @amandita

  2. Anonymous says:

    Reaching optimal size
    Great post @Thayer, really enjoyed your research. I admit I am a Twitter junkie and have a feeling 50 or even 80 people with 5 tweets a day would not be enough for me. I agree with @amandita, you have to do what works for you. I follow quite a few people from the London social media and start-up scene, but I also tons of US-based bloggers, journalists and analysts. Waking up this morning and being able to check what happened during the McCain/Obama debate on Twitter was absolutely awesome. Having said that I feel my network is reaching its optimal size (following circa 300 people). Now, I just tend to add people I met in person during meet-ups etc @huddlesuz

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve kept my original Twitter account but opened up a second, uber-private account which I am keeping private and only following a few select people. The “parkylondon” account is part of my podcast (thisweekinlondon) so I cannot stop people from following me there (I follow back interesting, non-spammy, people) but my other account is deeply restricted. Works for me.
    Paul

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